In a letter to President Giorgio Napolitano and Prime Minister Mario Monti, 200 signatories have made a specific request for Italy to stop its anti-GM policy. The main argument used is economic, claiming the ban is affecting the country’s competitiveness in the global market. It suggests that as 10% of world cultivation in 2011 derived from GM crops, it is no longer possible to ignore this technology. The letter fails, however, to consider the full picture of public opinion on GMOs in Italy.
The letter states that the request is “supported by the fact that 59% of Italians calls for public scientific research on GMOs to be continued.” Further support comes from “corn growers in Northern Italy who are mostly willing to test GM plants that are authorised at the European level.” These figures vary somewhat from recent findings in other sources. According to a 2011 survey carried out by Interactive Market Research for review “Espansione” for example, the share of Italians who are in favour of GMOs for scientific purposes is just 34.4%. More generally, they contradict public opinion on GMO use more generally, for example in food, where the level of concern among Italians remains markedly high. A 2010 Eurobarometer survey reveals that GM food makes 80% of Italians feel worried. Only 17% think GM food is safe for their health.
The letter also suggests that the result of this current prohibition is “the end of many Italian farms that are forced to compete with old, weak instruments against companies that innovate and offer healthier, more environmentally-friendly and profitable products” based on GMOs. They say this is the main reason why Italy has “a structural agro-food trade deficit that has been 10 billion euros for decades.” It argues that if millions of tons of GMO derivatives were not imported in Europe, the entire feed industry would disappear along with the best of “Made in Italy” food, based on prestigious PDO and PGI brands.
Although reported in the Italian media that it was a letter from 200 scientists and farmers, a closer look at the list of signatories reveals that a number of about 130 can be defined as scientists while about 30 are farmers. The others include housewives, employees, officials, students, pensioners, sons and friends of farmers. You can find the full list and letter (in Italian) here: http://www.salmone.org/lettera-ai-presidenti.